Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Brood (1979)

1979's The Brood is a gory, Canadian-made horror flick that has its roots in divorce court.

Following a bitter divorce and custody battle, director David Cronenberg wrote and directed this psychological shocker about a woman (Samantha Eggar) whose rage manifests itself by her giving birth to malevolent dwarves who kill anyone she perceives to be a threat to her happiness. As divorce metaphors go, this one certainly goes for the throat.

Art Hindle plays her estranged husband, who has custody of their young daughter (Cindy Hinds). This is no doubt very upsetting to Eggar's character, who is currently undergoing radical "psychoplasmic" therapy with the shadowy Dr. Hal Raglan, played by Oliver Re
ed. Ollie is excellent in the part, but aging fast, graying and a bit bloated from all the boozing. However, he seems unfazed by having come full circle, having started his career with the early '60s Hammer films, and now starring in another, different kind of horror, involving psychotic female rage and evil midget kids with no genitalia. It ain't exactly Curse of the Werewolf.

The atmosphere of the film is very '70s, and most Canadian. A host of character actors from the Great White North (Henry Beckman and Nuala Fitzgerald as Eggar's parents, Susan Hogan as a sympathetic teacher) die badly at the hands of the title characters before the final showdown at the Raglan Institute. The death of Hogan's character is particularly brutal, as
she gets beaten to death by the mallet-wielding title characters in front of a classroom full of second-graders. Maybe she reminded Cronenberg of his ex.

The third-act reveal of Eggar's exo-womb is still mighty disturbing. I was reminded of the Panasonic color televison ads she was doing at the time: "My hair is auburn, my dress is emerald green, and my malevolent dwarf-children are covered in gore that is vividly scarlet."

There is a remake currently in development, which on the surface seems absurd, but there is a serious lack of originality among the majority of modern Hollywood filmmakers, who have already puked out unnecessary remakes of movies like Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. "The Horror Hacker" at put it this way: "
But really, what talent or originality does it really take to pitch a remake of a thematically rich classic film? In my opinion, that's why Cronenberg films should not be remade. His films are so complex and multi-layered that any remake is likely only to dumb down the story rather than explore the subtle horror behind everyday events. The day someone has the bright idea to remake Videodrome is the day I stop watching movies."

The Brood has gained a cult following over the years, and has aged better than other early Cronenberg works like Rabid and Videodrome. The director's nasty divorce begat
not only a pretty scary creepshow, but also a rock band: there is a British act who call themselves David Cronenberg's Wife.

Available on DVD from MGM Home Video.

A shorter version of this review was first published at, where you can read hundreds more of my write-ups, mostly film-related, as well as my reviews of books, local Austin places, various types of junk food, and some damn fine ales.

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